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Alameda County Fair Posts Record Year
Value message, promotions help boost attendance


By Ron Weber, Editor

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The Alameada County Fair wrapped up with 436,000 in attendance, a whopping 22% increase over the 357,904 it drew in 2008. "We want to thank the almost half-a-million guests who came out to play at the record breaking Alameda County Fair these past two weeks," said Rick Pickering, CEO and General Manager of the Alameda County Agricultural Fair Association.

Many promotions and discounts were offered in response to the challenging economy including a $30 season pass. Fair management attributed the dramatic increase to a sentiment among fair guests to take advantage of a great entertainment value close to home. Food and ride revenue were on par with the admission percentage increase. Other promotions included $2 Tuesdays and a Fun Pack promotion which offered 4 admission tickets , 1 parking pass and 2 "2 for 1" drink coupons in the carnival areas.

Another way the ACF took advantage of the value message was by sending out enewsletters comparing the price at local theme parks, water parks and other nearby attractions, thereby emphasizing the value of the fair.

The fair used traditional radio, print and billboards but added many additional outlets in order to attract a large crowd. Oakland A's baseball signs, rodeo sponsorships, cinema advertising and traditional posters, flyers and brochures were all methods used by the fair this year. In addition, the fair used social networking and internet sites like Twitter, Facebook and Google to get the message out. "Friends" and "followers" were given unique VIP meet and greet opportunities to reward loyalty.

The independent food midway featured 70 food vendors. Food gross was up 20.8%, reflecting the attendance increase. Unique food items included deep-fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, spiral potato wrapped hot dogs, alligator sausage bites and 18-inch corn dogs.

Concert performances were also a big draw this year led by Night Ranger playing on the fair's best ever attendance day, July 3rd. Other acts included The Charlie Daniels Band, Bowling For Soup, En Vogue, BJ Thomas and Con Funk Shun. All performances were filled to capacity.

The Wiener Dog National dog races at the racetrack and Fiesta Hispana, a themed weekend with all day music and a live Telemundo TV casting call and dating show were also well attended.

Butler Amusements also added to the media hype by bringing their Balloon Samba ride purchased from Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch. The carnival offered free rides on the attraction and the buzz created by this promotion was spectacular.

The fair does not receive taxpayer support so it was unaffected by California's budget cuts. However, the fair did institute cost cutting and revenue generating measures to prepare for the future. The fair added commercial rental space to increase the bottom line and utilized volunteers for as many services as possible, saving on payroll expenses.

CEO Pickering was very pleased with the results in 2009 adding, "As a nonprofit organization that receives no tax support, we are pleased to provide our many communities with local affordable edu-tainment. Recognizing this difficult economy, we are honored that so many people chose to invest their time with family and friends at the Fair this summer."

Plans are underway now for the 2010 edition of the fair.

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